Words Go Live 

Poetry gets remixed and redefined at the 8th annual Living Word Festival.

Spoken word is clearly at a different place than it was twenty years ago, when cafe audiences would heckle a poet for using a solecism or dangling modifier. Today's spoken-word poets don't care too much for grammar rules, prescriptivist language, or old-fashioned literary devices. What they do care about is poetry as a heightened (read: "live") form of expression. Most of today's young stars came up during the early 2000s, at a time when spoken word was dominated by performing-arts majors like Saul Williams, who wanted to give the form a Shakespearean quality. Thus, contemporary spoken word is not merely spoken, but performed; it mostly occurs in a cutthroat, one-on-one battle format called a poetry slam; and, as Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam proved during its six-season lifespan on HBO, it overlaps heavily with hip-hop. In fact, hip-hop and spoken word appear to have a reciprocal relationship: Today's poets borrow their cadence, flow, syncopation, and slang from today's rap artists; meanwhile, the tightest rap artists in the game had their genesis in spoken word.

Which goes to explain why Marc Bamuthi Joseph's annual Living Word Festival incorporates so much hip-hop into its annual ten-day program. In fact, Joseph gives the word "hip-hop" a lot of latitude by including not only live emcee performances but also hip-hop theater, an annual graffiti battle (hosted by local muralist Estria Miyashiro), a Hood Games skateboarding expo, scraper bikes, and a B-boy competition. Now in its eighth year, the festival boasts its best lineup yet. It kicks off with Live from the Edge, a fascinating "fusion-theater" performance by the New York group Universe, held at San Francisco's CounterPULSE (1310 Mission St., 8 p.m., $10-$20). Oakland-raised poet Chinaka Hodge will also present an excerpt from her play Mirrors in Every Corner, co-commissioned by Living Word and Intersection for the Arts, and directed by Joseph. Then, on Saturday, comes the event to write home about. Called Life Is Living, it's an all-day celebration in West Oakland's Defremery Park (16th St. at Adeline St., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.), featuring Hood Games skateboard concourses, Estria's 3rd Annual Invitational Living Word Graffiti Battle, a youth town hall on health-care reform sponsored by President Obama's nonprofit Organizing for America, and performances by Linda Tillery & the Cultural Heritage Choir, Kev Choice Ensemble, and Pharoahe Monch — an emcee whose intricate, narrative rap style draws heavily on the spoken-word form.

Living Word caps off next week with the Oct. 17 Brave New Voices Teachers' Conference at Lick Wilmerding High School (755 Ocean Ave., San Francisco), and a gospel-oriented event held at 2 p.m. the following day in Glide Memorial Church (300 Ellis St., San Francisco), during which YouthSpeaks poets will showcase material about faith. Music will obviously be a huge draw at this year's Living Word, not to mention that the words will have a musical quality. Perhaps that's what brings them to life. Oct. 8-18. YouthSpeaks.org

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Events

Author Archives

  • Shots, Licks, and Male Ennui

    Jonathan Singer-Vine's debut film is an honest coming-of-age.
    • Jun 12, 2013
  • Debtor's Purgatory

    People who can't afford to hire an attorney have virtually no chance in court against well-heeled lawyers for banks and debt collection companies.
    • May 8, 2013
  • More»

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

Best of the East Bay

© 2017 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation